Wake-Up Call: The Elephant In the Room

Eagles Kicker Alex Henery kicking field goal
Deep down, in places Eagles fans don’t talk about at parties, there’s a realization that special teams could play a big part in determining this team’s fate.

It’s not the most comforting of thoughts, particularly after a game in Minnesota that turned the term “squib” into a curse word in Philadelphia. It’s far more desirable to tie one’s fortunes to the likes of LeSean McCoy or DeSean Jackson or DeMeco Ryans, but that’s not always the way it works out. Sometimes it comes down to the Alex Henery‘s of the world. Read more »

Odds Not In Henery’s Favor

Alex Henery

The wind gusted right as Chip Kelly and special teams coach Dave Fipp got together to make their decision.

Matt Barkley had just been dropped for a five-yard sack and the Eagles were facing a 4th-and-10 from the Giants’ 32. The options were to trot Alex Henery out for a 50-yard field goal attempt into a wind that was showing off its strength, or put the ball in the hands of a rookie quarterback in fourth-and-long.

“I made it in pregame,” said Henery. “But it’s just like the kickoffs — you’re kicking that way, you can kick it five deep or you can hit a wind gust and it be on the 15, so it’s just one of those things, either you’re going to make the field goal or you’re giving them the ball right there.”

Kelly elected to go for it. Barkley mishandled the snap, scooped it off the ground and threw wildly in the direction of Jason Avant over the middle. Incomplete. A 12-play drive and nothing to show for it. Read more »

Kelly Explains In-Game Decisions

chipkelly_400_102613Chip Kelly made some in-game decisions during Sunday’s loss to the Giants that will leave him open to second-guessing in the next couple days.

He was asked about all of them during his press conference. Here’s what Kelly said.

1. With 1:14 left in the second quarter, the Eagles had a first-and-goal from the Giants’ 2. They had just driven 78 yards, and Matt Barkley had completed six of seven passes. Instead of giving LeSean McCoy a chance to punch it in, Kelly called a naked bootleg and had Barkley roll out to his left. With the two receivers covered, Barkley was supposed to throw the ball away. But he waited too long and was stripped by Terrell Thomas. Barkley fumbled, and instead of a touchdown, the Eagles turned the ball over.

“We called timeout. I just wanted to get Matt settled. And we went over and talked about it,” Kelly said. “It’s a play we’ve run, we’ve practiced continually for about six weeks or seven weeks since the beginning of the season. It was just a naked [bootleg]. We’ve got one route with DeSean [Jackson] out wide and then the tight end on a drag on the back side. If we didn’t have it, throw it away.”

Why not hand it off to McCoy there? Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Can Fipp Fix Special Teams?

The question posed to Chip Kelly was about defensive coordinator Billy Davis and a potential switch to a 3-4 scheme.

“I like the 3-4 better,” Kelly said. “When I first started at Oregon, I think from a special-teams standpoint, philosophically, if you carry more linebackers on your roster than you do defensive linemen, you help your team from a special-teams standpoint.”

It was far from the most important thing Kelly said on a day when he introduced his new staff and announced Michael Vick would be returning. But it showed that he’s thinking about special teams when shaping other parts of the organization.

According to Football Outsiders, the Birds had the 24th-ranked special teams in the league in 2012. Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News had the Eagles 28th.

With Bobby April now in Oakland, Dave Fipp takes over as special-teams coordinator. His relationship with Kelly goes back 13 years to when Fipp traveled to New Hampshire to interview for a coaching job.

“My favorite part about Chip Kelly is he’s been the same guy the whole time,” he said.

Fipp, a former safety at University of Arizona, has five years of NFL coaching experience. He spent three seasons (2008-10) as the 49ers’ assistant special-teams coach and the past two years in the same role with the Dolphins. Fipp also bounced around the college ranks at Holy Cross, Arizona, Cal Poly, Nevada and San Jose State.

While Kelly’s plans for running NFL practices remain a bit of a mystery, Fipp emphasized that the head coach is committed to making special teams a priority.

“I can tell you this, I know that special teams is really important to him,” Fipp said. “I know special teams is critical to him. I know he’s going to allocate the time necessary that we need to perform at a high level.”

As of last Monday, Fipp said he had already spent a considerable amount of time looking at what went right and what went wrong for the Eagles on special teams last season. He didn’t want to point fingers, but said he expects his group to be different going forward.

From a personnel standpoint, Colt Anderson is a restricted free agent. Long-snapper Jon Dorenbos is unrestricted. And so is Akeem Jordan, the team’s leading tackler on special teams in 2012.

One decision Kelly will have to make is whether or not to use DeSean Jackson on punt returns. Jackson only returned one punt last season, and he was terrible in that role in 2011. But in his first three years in the league, Jackson had four touchdowns on special teams.

“He’s obviously as explosive as any player in the National Football League back there,” Fipp said. “He’s really lightning in a bottle. The guy’s deadly. He has changed a lot of games with his ability back there. I know he hasn’t done it really for a couple years.

“I know this. I know that Coach Kelly knows that he’s an explosive player. I know that his role on this football team will be maximized. Whether or not he’ll be back there returning punts, we’ll find out.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Dennis Dixon says the Eagles’ quarterback job is up for grabs.

If the Birds let Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie walk, what are their options at cornerback?

Here are some draft nuggets from Mike Mayock with an Eagles slant.

The Eagles mock draft roundup page has been updated.

The Cowboys could have had LeSean McCoy, but Jerry Jones strayed from his draft board.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano pegs Anderson as the Eagles’ must-keep free agent:

The Eagles have only eight free agents, and the seven unrestricted guys are either dead weight or non-essential. Argue cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie if you like, but is he a “must-keep?” Anderson is a special-teams ace and a decent backup safety.

SI.com’s Peter King says the unimpressive class of QB prospects is a good thing for teams looking to deal a signal-caller:

That means San Francisco should get a mid-round pick, at worst, for Smith, who was the league’s top-rated quarterback last November when benched for Colin Kaepernick and is still just 28. Seattle could get a pick for Matt Flynn, who’s been made obsolete by Russell Wilson. And the Eagles, despite their we-love-Nick-Foles protestations to the contrary, should be able to get a mid-rounder for their second-year passer.

COMING UP

Plenty to get to, including a profile of one prospect who could be on the Eagles’ radar.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Dave Fipp To Coach Special Teams

The Eagles won’t officially announce their coaching staff until every position is filled; that’s how Chip Kelly wants it.

Safe to say, though, that Dave Fipp will be named special teams coordinator when that time comes.

The 38-year-old Fipp, who served as an assistant special teams coach in Miami for the past two seasons, was spotted at Senior Bowl practice Wednesday wearing an Eagles sweatshirt. He was congratulated by San Diego head coach Mike McCoy on his new assignment.

“”I have heard great things,” McCoy said.

Fipp has five years of NFL coaching experience. He worked as an assistant special teams coach in San Francisco from 2008-10 before moving onto Miami. His collegiate resume includes stints as defensive coordinator both at Cal Poly and San Jose State.

The San Diego native interviewed at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was coaching there. While they never ended up working together, they maintained a connection.

The Dolphins were fourth overall on special teams last season, according  to the rankings of Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin, while the Eagles were 28th.